THE PRINCIPLES AND PRACTICE OF KNOWLEDGE MANAGEMENT by

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Nov 6, 2013 (3 years and 9 months ago)

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THE PRINCIPLES AND PRACTICE
OF KNOWLEDGE
MANAGEMENT

by

Martie Maria Squier



Submitted in fulfilment of the
requirements for the degree of


M. IS (Information Science)

in the

Department of Information Science

Faculty of Engineering, Built Environment
and Information Technology
University of Pretoria




November 2003
Study Leader: Prof. Dr. M. M. M. Snyman

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I dedicate this dissertation to my late husband Casper Squier.
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i
DISSERTATION SUMMARY


Title: The principles and practice of knowledge
management.

Author: Martie M. Squier.


Study Leader: Prof. Dr. M.M.M. Snyman.


Department: Engineering, Built Environment and Information Technology.
University of Pretoria.

Degree: M IS (Information Science).


Keywords: Explicit knowledge, intangible assets, intellectual capital, knowledge
assets, knowledge economy, knowledge management, knowledge
techniques, knowledge technologies, learning organisation, tacit
knowledge.


The aim of the study is to provide a theoretical background to knowledge
management and related concepts and to determine the current situation with regard to
knowledge management implementation in industry, specifically financial
organisations.

Organisations all over the world are realising that knowledge in the form of expertise
and competence is the organisation’s most important asset and that its quality and
availability affect all aspects of the organisation. More and more executives and
managers realise that in modern organisations, all available work is centred on
knowledge-intensive activities and the organisation’s success is directly related to the
quality and relevance of these activities, particularly through knowledge workers’
willingness to use that knowledge to the advantage of the organisation.

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ii
Knowledge management is seen as a business process, integrating knowledge, people,
processes, strategies, techniques and technologies. It is the process through which
organisations create and use their institutional or collective knowledge assets.
Knowledge management is not only about managing these knowledge assets but also
about managing the processes that act upon the assets. These processes include
developing knowledge and preserving knowledge within organisations, including
learning processes and the management of information systems.

Knowledge management techniques and technologies play an important role in
supporting knowledge management processes and activities. Technology and people
related techniques bring to knowledge management the ability to carry out knowledge
management processes quickly, efficiently and cost-effectively, making it an enabling
solution.

When implementing a knowledge management initiative the knowledge management
strategy is closely linked to the overall business strategy. The study proposed a
knowledge management implementation framework. The emphasis of the framework
was on the management of the organisation, people, processes and infrastructure as
well as the alignment of the knowledge management strategy to the overall business
strategy of the organisation.

Based on the theoretical background, three well-known financial organisations were
used in a case study to investigate the current state of knowledge management
implementation in industry. Finally conclusions, based on the literature survey and the
case studies are given. From the conclusions, gaps in the literature have been
identified and addressed in the discussion of possible further research possibilities.
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iii
SAMEVATTING VAN VERHANDELING


Titel: The principles and practice of knowledge management.


Outeur: Martie M. Squier.


Studieleier: Prof. Dr. M.M.M. Snyman.


Departement: Ingenieurswese, Bou-omgewing en Inligtingtegnologie.
Universiteit van Pretoria.

Graad: M IS (Inligtingkunde)

Sleutelterme: Eksplisiete kennis, intellektuele kapitaal, implisiete kennis,
kennisbestuur, kennisekonomie, kennishulpbronne, leergierige
organisasie, nie-tasbare bates.

Die doel van die studie is om die teoretiese agtergrond en verwante terme van
kennisbestuur te beskryf, asook die huidige stand van kennisbestuur-implementering
in organisasies te bepaal, met spesifieke verwysing na finansiële instellings.

Dwarsoor die wêreld besef organisasies dat kennis in die vorm van kundigheid en
vaardighede die organisasie se belangrikste bate is. Die kwaliteit en beskikbaarheid
van kennisbronne het ‘n invloed op alle aspekte van die organisasie. Al hoe meer
bedryfsleiers en bestuurshoofde besef dat werk in moderne organisasies op
intellektuele aktiwiteite gesentreer is. Die instelling se sukses word direk verbind met
die kwaliteit en relevansie van hierdie aktiwiteite, veral deur die kenniswerker se
bereidwilligheid om die intellektuele bates tot voordeel van die organisasie te bestuur
en ten volle te benut.

Kennisbestuur word beskou as ‘n besigheidsproses wat kennis, mense, prosesse,
strategieë, tegnieke en tegnologie integreer en bestuur. Dit is ‘n proses waardeur ‘n
organisasie intellektuele bates skep en aanwend tot voordeel van die onderneming.
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iv
Kennisbestuur behels die vermoë om nie net kennisbates te bestuur nie maar ook die
besigheidsprosesse wat daarmee verband hou. Kennisbestuursprosesse sluit die
skepping, beskerming en hergebruik van kennis in, asook leerprosesse en die bestuur
van inligtingstelsels.

Kennisbestuurstegnieke en -tegnologie speel ‘n belangrike ondersteuningsrol tydens
die prosesse en aktiwiteite van kennisbestuur. Tegnologie en mens-gesentreerde
tegnieke dien as hulpmiddel om kennisbestuursprosesse vinnig, doeltreffend en koste-
efektief uit te voer. Dit vereis innoverende oplossings wat alleenlik relevante inligting
aan gebruikers beskikbaar stel.

Wanneer ‘n kennisbestuursinisiatief geïmplementeer word, vorm die
besigheidstrategie ‘n integrerende deel van die kennisbestuurstrategie. Die studie
beveel ‘n raamwerk vir die implementering van ‘n kennisbestuursinisiatief aan. Die
raamwerk fokus op die bestuur van die organisasie, mense, prosesse en infrastruktuur,
asook ‘n skakeling tussen die kennisbestuurstrategie en die besigheidstrategie van die
organisasie.

‘n Gevallestudie waartydens insette van drie bekende finansiële instellings met
bevindinge in die literatuur vergelyk is, is gebruik om die huidige stand van die
implementering van kennisbestuur in die bedryf te ondersoek. Gapings wat in die
studie geïdentifiseer is, is aangespreek in die bespreking van verdere
navorsingsmoontlikhede.
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v

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS


The author would like to take the opportunity to thank the following people:


Prof. Dr. M.M.M. Snyman for acting as my study leader and initiating so
many opportunities;

My children, Liezl and Karin, for their continuous support and for believing in
me;

My parents and friends, who encouraged and assisted me;


Ms H.van der Walt for providing feedback on the written document; and


My Creator, for granting me the insight, knowledge and ability to complete
this study.



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vi

GLOSSARY
(Partially adapted from: http://www.kit.nl/specials/html/km_glossary.asp)


Term Description
Balanced scorecard
system
A method of measuring performance of a firm beyond the
typical financial measures. It links corporate goals and
direct performance measures in a framework specific to a
firm, and is one method of measuring the impact of
knowledge management.
Best practice A way of doing something, which has produced good results
and that could be adapted to another situation.
Communities of
practice
Communities of people who share the same experience or
who are trying to achieve a similar goal.
Data A set of objective facts about events. Data are transformed
into information by adding value through context,
categorisation and corrections. Data are facts and figures
without context or interpretation.
Enablers of
knowledge
management
Techniques and technologies, which ensure that knowledge
is created, captured, shared and leveraged.
Explicit knowledge The knowledge that is there for all to find and use in, for
example, databases and publications.
Information Facts with context and perspectives.
Intellectual capital The sum of everything everybody in a company knows that
gives them a competitive edge in the market place (Stewart,
1991).
Knowledge
Information, which provides guidance for action. It
comprises a fluid mix of experiences, values, contextual
information, and expert insight that provides a framework
for evaluating and incorporating new experience and
information.
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vii

Knowledge
Management
implementation
strategy
A high-level plan that aims at supplying the organisation
with the knowledge resources that it needs to carry out its
vision and goals and is closely link with the overall business
strategy
Knowledge worker Employees who are actively involved in the process of using
techniques and technologies for collecting data, analysing
information, communicating and acting on it.
Learning
organisations
Where people continually expand their capacity to create the
results they truly desire, where new patterns of thinking are
nurtured and where people are continually learning how to
learn together.
Tacit knowledge Resides in people’s heads or knowledge that a person does
not make explicit.


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viii

TABLE OF CONTENTS


DISSERTATION SUMMARY .................................................................................. i
SAMEVATTING VAN VERHANDELING ............................................................. iii
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS .......................................................................................
GLOSSARY…………………………………………………………………………..

v
vi
CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION TO THE RESEARCH SUBJECT .................

1
1.1
Introduction ............................................................................................. 2
1.2 Problem statement and objectives of the research ............................... 6
1.3 Research methodology ............................................................................ 7
1.4 Demarcation of study .............................................................................. 10
1.5 Division of chapters ................................................................................. 10
CHAPTER 2: KNOWLEDGE AS A CONCEPT ................................................... 13
2.1 Introduction ............................................................................................ 14
2.2 The knowledge era .................................................................................. 16
2.3
Data, information and knowledge ......................................................... 18
2.4 Types of knowledge ................................................................................. 23
2.4.1 Personal knowledge ................................................................................... 23
2.4.2 Public knowledge ...................................................................................... 24
2.4.3 Shared knowledge .................................................................................... 24
2.4.4 Organisational knowledge ....................................................................... 24
2.5 Knowledge creation and knowledge conversion processes .................. 27
2.5.1 From tacit to tacit ...................................................................................... 28
2.5.2 From tacit to explicit ................................................................................. 28
2.5.3 From explicit to explicit ............................................................................. 28
2.5.4 From explicit to tacit ................................................................................. 29
2.6 Knowledge as an intangible asset ........................................................... 30
2.6.1 New measures for knowledge assets ......................................................... 32
2.6.2 The economic value of knowledge ........................................................... 34
2.7 Organisation of knowledge ..................................................................... 35
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ix

2.8 The use of knowledge in organisations .................................................. 35
2.9 Summary .................................................................................................. 37
CHAPTER 3: THE THEORY OF KNOWLEDGE MANAGEMENT ................. 39
3.1
Introduction .............................................................................................. 40
3.2 Knowledge management defined ........................................................... 42
3.3 The current state of knowledge management ...................................... 45
3.4 The relationship between knowledge management and information
management ............................................................................................ 46
3.5 The knowledge-based organisation ...................................................... 47
3.6 Driving forces behind knowledge management ................................... 48
3.6.1 Realisation of the changing role of knowledge ........................................ 48
3.6.2 Cost avoidance ........................................................................................... 49
3.6.3 The leverage of knowledge in enabling corporate success ....................... 49
3.6.4 Value and measurement of intangible assets ............................................ 50
3.6.5 Globalisation of business and international competition .......................... 50
3.6.6 Sophisticated customers, competitors and suppliers ................................. 51
3.7 Principles of knowledge management ................................................... 51
3.7.1 Knowledge management is expensive ...................................................... 52
3.7.2 Effective knowledge management requires hybrid solutions of people
and technology ..........................................................................................
52
3.7.3 Knowledge management is highly political ............................................. 52
3.7.4 Knowledge management requires leadership ........................................... 52
3.7.5 Knowledge management benefits more from maps than models, more
from markets than from hierarchies ......................................................... 53
3.7.6 Sharing and using knowledge are often unnatural acts ............................. 53
3.7.7 Knowledge management means improving knowledge work processes 54
3.7.8 Knowledge access is just the beginning .................................................... 54
3.7.9 Knowledge management never ends ........................................................ 54
3.7.10 Knowledge management requires a knowledge contract ......................... 55
3.8 Advantages of knowledge management ................................................ 55
3.9 Barriers of knowledge management ..................................................... 56
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x

3.10 Knowledge management activities ........................................................ 59
3.11 Approaches to knowledge management ................................................. 59
3.12
Summary ................................................................................................. 62
CHAPTER 4: ORGANISATIONAL LEARNING AND KNOWLEDGE
MANAGEMENT ......................................................................................................... 65
4.1 Introduction ............................................................................................. 66
4.2 The relationship between learning, knowledge and change ............... 68
4.3 Organisational learning ......................................................................... 70
4.3.1 Definitions of organisation learning .......................................................... 71
4.3.2 Principles of organisational learning ......................................................... 72
4.3.3 The organisational learning context ......................................................... 74
4.3.3.1 Organisational culture ............................................................................... 74
4.3.3.2 Organisational structure ............................................................................ 75
4.3.3.3 Organisational infrastructure .................................................................... 77
4.3.4 Learning in organisations ......................................................................... 77
4.3.4.1 Individual learning ...........................................................................…… 78
4.3.4.2. Group or team learning ......................................................................…. 79
4.3.4.3 Organisational learning .....................................................................…… 80
4.3.5 Types of learning ...................................................................................... 81
4.3.5.1 Adaptive learning ...................................................................................... 81
4.3.5.2 Deutero learning ....................................................................................... 82
4.3.5.3 Action learning .......................................................................................... 83
4.4 The learning organisation ....................................................................... 85
4.4.1 Definitions and characteristics of learning organisations ......................... 86
4.4.2 Learning organisations versus traditional organisations .......................... 89
4.4.3 Advantages of a learning organisation ...................................................... 96
4.4.4 Learning organisation frameworks and models ........................................ 98
4.5 Organisational learning versus learning organisation ......................... 102




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xi

4.6 Organisational learning and the learning organisation in the
knowledge management context ............................................................ 104
4.7
Summary .................................................................................................. 106
CHAPTER 5: TECHNIQUE AND TECHNOLOGY SUPPORT FOR
KNOWLEDGE MANAGEMENT ............................................................................ 110
5.1 Introduction ............................................................................................. 111
5.2 The role of knowledge management techniques and technology ........ 113
5.2.1 People as an essential component of the knowledge transfer process ....... 117
5.2.2 Processes as an essential component of the knowledge transfer process .. 118
5.2.3 Techniques and technology as an essential component of the knowledge
transfer process ......................................................................................... 119
5.3 Techniques to support knowledge management .................................. 121
5.3.1 Talk rooms and knowledge fairs ............................................................... 122
5.3.2 Mentoring ................................................................................................. 122
5.3.3 Stories and storytelling ............................................................................. 123
5.3.4 Breakfast chatting ...................................................................................... 124
5.3.5 Communities of practice ........................................................................... 124
5.3.6 Suggestion schemes ................................................................................ 126
5.3.7 Face-to-face conversations ....................................................................... 127
5.4 Technology to support knowledge management .................................. 127
5.4.1 The need for knowledge management technology .................................... 129
5.4.2 Knowledge management technology architecture .................................... 129
5.4.3 Characteristics of knowledge management technology ........................... 130
5.4.4 Current and future technologies ................................................................ 131
5.4.4.1 Enabling technologies ......................................................................... 131
5.4.4.2 Technologies available in the marketplace ......................................... 131
5.4.4.3 Technologies to consider in the future ................................................ 132
5.5 Summary .................................................................................................. 133


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xii

CHAPTER 6: KNOWLEDGE MANAGEMENT IMPLEMENTATION ........... 135
6.1
Introduction ............................................................................................ 136
6.2 Success factors of a knowledge management implementation
initiative .................................................................................................. 137
6.2.1 Visible short-term success indicators of knowledge management
implementation initiatives ........................................................................ 137
6.2.2 Possible long-term benefits of knowledge management implementation
initiatives .................................................................................................. 137
6.3 Interdependency between business strategy and knowledge
management .............................................................................................
139
6.4 Findings of a literature survey of current knowledge management
approaches………………………………………………………………
140
6.5 Proposed framework for knowledge management implementation ... 143
6.5.1 Management of the organisation .............................................................. 144
6.5.2 Management of the people………………………………………………. 146
6.5.3 Management of the processes ................................................................... 147
6.5.4 Management of the infrastructure ............................................................. 148
6.6 Summary .................................................................................................. 149
CHAPTER 7: KNOWLEDGE MANAGEMENT IN THREE FINANCIAL
ORGANISATIONS ............................................................………………………….. 151
7.1 Introduction .............................................................................................. 152
7.2 The organisations: features, environments and functions ................... 154
7.2.1 Financial organisation A (FOA) ............................................................... 154
7.2.2 Financial organisation B (FOB) ............................................................... 159
7.2.3 Financial organisation C (FOC) ............................................................... 160
7.3 Discussions and findings of survey outcomes ....................................... 161
7.3.1 Functional areas of respondents ................................................................ 162
7.3.2 Perception of knowledge management ...................................................... 163
7.3.3 The knowledge agenda ............................................................................. 164
7.3.4 Current stage of engagement with knowledge management .................... 165
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xiii

7.3.5 Reason for investing in knowledge management ..................................... 166
7.3.6 The most valuable feature of a knowledge management solution ............. 167
7.3.7 Position of a Chief Knowledge Officer..............................................…… 168
7.3.8 Barriers to the widespread application of knowledge management........... 169
7.3.9 Costly mistakes due to insufficient knowledge or experience .................. 170
7.3.10 Kind of environment to maximise gaining, sharing and utilising
knowledge ................................................................................................. 172
7.3.11 Component technologies that will make significant contributions to a
knowledge management initiative ............................................................ 173
7.3.12 Component techniques that will make significant contributions to a
knowledge management initiative ............................................................ 174
7.4 Conclusions .............................................................................................. 175
CHAPTER 8: CONCLUSION ................................................................................. 179
8.1
Introduction ............................................................................................ 180
8.2 Findings ............................................................................................. 180
8.3
8.4
Further research possibilities ................................................................
Conclusion……………………………………………………………….

187
187
APPENDIX A: Questionnaire..................................................................…………. 189
BIBLIOGRAPHY ...................................................................................................... 195

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LIST OF FIGURES

Figure 1.1: Connecting people to people to information………………….. 3
Figure 2.1: The processing hierarchy: data, information and knowledge in
a hierarchy based on decision-making and problem-solving….

19
Figure 2.2: The knowledge continuum……………………………………. 20
Figure 2.3: Four modes of knowledge conversion (SECI Model)………… 29
Figure 4.1: Planned versus continuous change……………………………. 70
Figure 4.2: Systems-linked learning organisation………………………… 99
Figure 4.3: Learning organisation pyramid………………………………. 100
Figure 5.1: Navigation and search………………………………………. 120
Figure 6.1: Framework for knowledge management implementation… 144
Figure 7.1: Leading companies implementing knowledge management…. 153
Figure 7.2: Functional areas and profiles of respondents…………………. 162
Figure 7.3: Perception of knowledge management……………………….. 163
Figure 7.4: The knowledge agenda……………………………………… 164
Figure 7.5: Current state of engagement with knowledge management…. 165
Figure 7.6: Reason for investing in knowledge management…………… 166
Figure 7.7:


The most valuable feature of a knowledge management
solution………………………………………………………


168
Figure 7.8: Barriers to widespread application of knowledge management 169
Figure 7.9: Costly mistakes due to insufficient knowledge experience … 170
Figure 7.10: The kind of environment that is needed to maximise gaining,
sharing and utilising knowledge……………………………

172
Figure 7.11: Component technologies that will make a significant
contribution to a knowledge management initiative………..

174
Figure 7.12: Component techniques that will make a significant
contribution to a knowledge management initiative

175

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xv
LIST OF TABLES


Table 3.1: Knowledge management barriers…………………………………. 58
Table 4.1: Actions which are needed to lead to a learning organisation…….. 103
Table 5.1: Conversion of knowledge between tacit and explicit forms – tools
and techniques…………………………………………………….. 114
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1












CHAPTER 1






INTRODUCTION TO THE
RESEARCH
SUBJECT







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1. INTRODUCTION TO THE RESEARCH SUBJECT

“To share an asset, usually it must first be divided. But knowledge is one of the few assets that
multiplies when shared.” Gaurav Dalmia

1.1 Introduction

Many organisations are becoming increasingly concerned with organisational
knowledge and their use of knowledge to create and make quality products, deliver
quality services, and maximize the efficiency of their internal operations. The fact that
knowledge is a company’s asset no longer lies in the ability to store and retrieve them,
but in the management of its usage in a dynamic knowledge era.

Managers all over the world are realising that knowledge in the form of expertise and
competence, is the organisation’s most important asset and that its quality and
availability affect all aspects of the organisation. More and more executives,
managers and professionals realise that in modern organisations, all valuable work is
centred on knowledge-intensive activities and that the organisation’s success is
directly related to the quality and relevance of these activities, particularly through
knowledge workers’ expertise and willingness to use that expertise to the advantage
of the organisation.

There is thus little doubt that we have entered the knowledge economy, where what
organisations “know” is becoming more important than the traditional sources of
economic power - capital, land, plant and labour (Drucker, 1992a: 6). Natural
resources, once the most valuable asset of the organisation, have been replaced by the
knowledge, created by and embedded in the knowledge worker’s mind. Unlike
industrial age assets that were managed on the principle of scarcity, the knowledge
asset, if managed and exploited appropriately, increases through sharing.

The late twentieth century has been described as the Age of Information, where an
emphasis was placed on the transformation and re-engineering of organisations.
It has already been suggested by authors such as Davenport (1999); Drucker (1992a);
Hamel (1995); Nonaka (1998a); Prusak (1996); Skyrme (1998a); Sveiby (1995);
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Wiig (1993, 1994, 1995b) and many others that the twenty-first century will be the
Age of the Mind. The focus on the externally observable features of information will
have been replaced by a completely different set of rules, customs and modes of
delivery. People will use knowledge according to judgements made on a different set
of criteria - the criteria for the management of knowledge.

The challenge to manage the knowledge assets of the organisation introduces a new
business philosophy, knowledge management, which aims at leveraging a knowledge
worker’s true knowledge-creating potential. Knowledge management is about
connecting people to people and people to information to create a competitive
advantage, as illustrated in Figure 1.1.




People People

Knowledge creating




Information


Figure 1.1: Connecting people to people and people to information.

(
Arthur Andersen, 1998.)

The intersection of these connections is where creativity spawns innovation
(knowledge creating) and thus establishes competitive advantage. This is referred to
as connectedness, and is accomplished through knowledge management.

Knowledge management provides the perspectives, approaches and the vision to put
investments made in data, information, best practices, proven processes and a wealth
of experiences to better use, where it is needed most in the organisation.
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Knowledge management directs decisions on where, how and when to create,
accumulate, update and account for new knowledge. It allows an organisation to best
leverage its key asset, the knowledge of their employees (Wiig, 1993: 18).

The major advantage of a knowledge management initiative is that it leverages
knowledge to improve organisational innovation, productivity responsiveness and
competency. Knowledge management is an evolving business process that proactively
manages all internal and external information to create a competitive advantage that is
linked to core business objectives and goals. From these perspectives knowledge
management focuses on eight important activities:

• Survey, develop, maintain and secure the intellectual and knowledge resources of
the organisation.
• Promote knowledge creation and innovation by all employees in the organisation.
• Determine the knowledge and expertise required to perform work tasks, organise
them, make the knowledge available, “package” it (for example training courses,
manuals or knowledge-based systems), and distribute it to the relevant points-of-
use.
• Modify and restructure the enterprise/organisation to use knowledge most
efficiently, take advantage of opportunities to exploit knowledge assets, minimise
knowledge gaps and maximise the value-added knowledge content of products
and services.
• Create and monitor future and long-term knowledge-based activities - in
particularly new knowledge investments - based on the unique priorities and needs
of different organisation environments and clients.
• Safeguard organisational and competitive knowledge and control the use of
knowledge to ascertain that only the best knowledge is used and that it is not
given away to competitors.
• Provide knowledge management capabilities and knowledge architecture to
support active knowledge management as part of the organisation’s practices and
culture.
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• Measure performance of all knowledge assets and account for them to fulfil the
organisation’s mission and objectives (Wiig, 1993: 18-30).

In today's competitive business environment, many organisations are struggling to
meet or keep up with the demands put upon them by their clients, competitors,
investors and regulators. With the globalisation of business, no organisation is
immune to this pressure. Organisations that excel at leveraging their knowledge
assets in a systematic way will create and sustain a competitive advantage that will
exceed the current and future demands placed upon them.

Given that competitiveness in the marketplace is essential for survival of an enterprise
and that the ability to sustain innovation is recognised as a strategic advantage, it has
become evident that knowledge must be generated and integrated within an
organisation. Such knowledge is essential for successful learning and innovation (or
knowledge creation) within the organisation.

The real problem however, lies in pinpointing such assets, as most corporate
knowledge is tacit and has to be made explicit before it can be evaluated, enhanced
and shared. Explicit knowledge is articulated knowledge - knowledge that has been
formalised by way of speech, text, visual graphics and compiled data. Tacit
knowledge includes the intuition, perspectives, beliefs and values that people form as
a result of their experiences. It is the management of tacit and explicit knowledge that
permits enterprises to find ways of making meaning from knowledge (Barclay and
Murray, 1998).

To manage the abovementioned valuable knowledge assets of a company
appropriately, a holistic management approach is recommended. Such an approach
encompasses the creation of a knowledge management strategy that is synchronised
with the organisation’s mission and strategy, and the development of an appropriate
mindset that creates cultural norms – trust, sharing, common goals, lust for learning
and acceptance of change, that represent every aspect of the organisation.

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This study, like many others attempts to define the new rules for managing the
organisation’s most valuable resource, the knowledge worker with his/her knowledge.

1.2 Problem statement and objectives of the research.

The knowledge that supports an organisation’s processes and decision-making
capability is an absolutely vital resource, but it is a resource that usually suffers from
under-management. In the past knowledge has been managed through human
resources and/or information technology divisions and it has not received the direct
attention of management that it deserves and needs. This is a major cause of sub-
optimal performance and is a source of risk.

The two major reasons for this situation are:

• A poor understanding of what knowledge is; and
• The lack of a suitable approach to managing it to best advantage.

The aim of the dissertation is to provide a theoretical background to knowledge
management and related concepts and to determine the current situation with regard to
knowledge management implementation in industry, specifically financial
organisations.

In order to achieve this aim the following objectives will be addressed:

• To give a brief explanation of what is meant by the core concepts involved in
knowledge management.
• To understand the theory and philosophy behind knowledge management.
• To identify the role of organisational learning and the learning organisation
within a knowledge management context.
• To give a brief overview of the enablers of knowledge management, namely
knowledge management techniques and technologies.
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• To propose a framework for implementing a knowledge management
initiative.
• To determine what is the current state of knowledge management
implementation in industry in South Africa, with specific reference to
financial organisations.

Financial organisations are seen as an important area for study as they play a major
role in the changing fortunes of the South African economy as instruments of
government monetary policy. A literature review indicated that financial organisations
have been ranked first amongst the leading industries implementing knowledge
management initiatives (see Figure 7.1). Financial organisations regard the knowledge
of their employees and technological investment as the keys to generating competitive
advantage and maintaining their threatened domination of the market for financial
services.

1.3 Research methodology

The research study followed a qualitative research approach. In qualitative research
numerous forms of data are collected and examined from various angles to construct a
meaningful picture of a multifaceted situation. Qualitative research focuses on
phenomena that occur in natural settings and involve studying those phenomena in all
their complexity (Leedy & Ormrod, 2001: 147).

According to Peshkin, cited in Leedy and Ormrod (2001: 148) qualitative research
studies typically serve one or more of the following purposes:

• They can reveal the nature of certain situations, settings, processes,
relationships, systems or people.
• They enable the researcher to (a) gain insights about the nature of a particular
phenomenon, (b) develop new concepts or theoretical perspectives about the
phenomenon and (c) discover the problems that exist within the phenomenon.
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• They allow a researcher to test the validity of certain assumptions, theories or
generalisations within real-world contexts.
• They provide a means through which a researcher can judge the effectiveness
of particular practices or innovations.

Both non-empirical and empirical research designs were followed. The non-empirical
research consisted of a literature review, which provided an overview of the most
important concepts in the field of knowledge management. It also served as
background for the empirical research conducted.

The empirical research consisted of case studies. Case studies are usually qualitative
in nature and aim to provide an in-depth description of a small number (fewer than
50) of cases (Mouton, 2001: 149). Powell (1998: 49) is also of the opinion that in
contrast to most survey research, case studies involve intensive analyses of a small
number of subjects rather than gathering data from a large sample or population.

According to Powell (1998: 49) a variety of data collection methods are usually
employed in case studies, for example questionnaires, interviews, observation and the
analysis of documents. For the purpose of this study two data collection methods were
used, namely questionnaires and interviews.

A questionnaire, which Webster’s new collegiate dictionary (1990) defines as “A set
of questions for submission to a number of persons to get data…” , offers several
important advantages over other methods or instruments for collecting data. Among
them are the following:

• The questionnaire tends to encourage frank answers and help to eliminate
interviewer bias.
• Questionnaires are usually relatively inexpensive to administer and can be
completed in the respondent’s own time.



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A questionnaire (see Appendix A) aimed primarily at senior personnel of three
financial organisations was used because the study considers the impact of knowledge
management implementation mainly from the point of view of top managers and chief
knowledge officers. An electronic version of the questionnaire was sent to 30
designated representatives of three financial organisations, thus 10 respondents from
each organisation. A detailed cover letter was included in order to explain the purpose
of the study to the respondents.

For the purpose of this study structured questions, also known as closed questions,
have been used. Closed questions limited the responses of the participants to stated
alternatives. Respondents were offered a set of answers from which they were asked
to choose the ones that most closely represented their views.

Face-to-face interviews were conducted with one senior representative
of each of the financial service organisations. Face-to-face interviews can be regarded
as an interpersonal-role situation in which an interviewer asks respondents questions
designed to obtain answers pertinent to the objective of the study (Powell, 1998: 109).

According to Babbie (1990: 91) the greatest advantage of face-to-face interviews is
flexibility. The interviewer assesses attitudes and opinions more readily, by recording
non-verbal as well as verbal behaviour. One of the most important aspects is that the
interviewer is in a position to keep the respondents interested and responsive until the
end of the interviews. The interviewing technique encourages the use of closed or
open-ended questions, thus enabling the researcher to obtain far more interesting and
in-depth answers. Notes were made during the interviews.

In both instances the purposive sampling method was used to construct a
representative sample from the total group. Purposive sampling proceeds on the belief
that the researcher knows enough about the population and its characteristics to
handpick the sample (Leedy & Ormrod, 2001: 219).



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Information obtained from questionnaires and during interviews was analysed using
the content analysis method. According to Powell (1998: 175) content analysis is
essentially a systematic, objective, quantitative analysis of the occurrence of words,
phrases, concepts etc. in books, journals, videos and other kinds of materials. Content
analysis was used, for example, to determine how frequently specific answers
appeared in the questionnaires or during the interviews.

1.4 Demarcation of the study

Although the aim of the study was to be comprehensive in a rapidly developing field
such as knowledge management, it was impossible to be anywhere near exhaustive in
terms of a literature review. New titles in the knowledge management field are being
published daily, as a cursory glance at Amazon.com’s website will confirm. Therefore
some of the latest developments and practices in the field of knowledge management
were not included in the study.

Technology is seen as just one element in knowledge management, albeit an
important one. This study deliberately omitted in-depth technical discussions of
specific knowledge management technologies, as these warrant a study in their own
right. Reference was made to a range of technologies that have been employed in
various companies, but the emphasis was primarily on the matching of knowledge
processes with appropriate technologies.

Measurement, be it of knowledge itself, of a organisation’s intellectual assets or of the
success of knowledge management initiatives, is another area that was not be included
in this study, because the many different measurement metrics that are available also
warrant a comprehensive study on their own.

1.5 Division of chapters

The research study is subdivided into eight chapters. Besides Chapter 1, which
includes the research problem and research methodology and the demarcation of the
study, the dissertation is structured into the following chapters:
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• Chapter 2: A brief explanation of the core concepts involved in knowledge
management, namely data, information and knowledge.
• Chapter 3: A literature study of the theory behind knowledge management.
Knowledge management is defined and the current state of knowledge
management in organisations is discussed. Then the relationship between
knowledge management and information management is given. subsequent
sections in the chapter cover the knowledge-based organisation, the driving
forces behind knowledge management, principles, barriers, advantages and
activities of a knowledge management initiative. Finally the different
approaches to knowledge management are discussed.
• Chapter 4: A clear link between learning, knowledge and change are
discussed. Then an overview of organisational learning is provided, covering
the following aspects: definitions of organisational learning, principles of
organisational learning, the organisational learning context and learning in
organisations. The next section covers the learning organisation with specific
reference to what a learning organisation is, discussing the characteristics of a
learning organisation, learning organisations versus traditional organisations,
advantages of a learning organisation and learning organisation frameworks
and models. Finally the distinction and relationship between organisational
learning and learning organisation are discussed, and the learning organisation
and organisational learning are placed within a knowledge management
context.
• Chapter 5: First a brief overview is given of the role of knowledge
management techniques and technologies to support knowledge management
processes and activities, and then the different techniques and technologies to
support knowledge management are discussed.
• Chapter 6: A framework for the implementation of a knowledge management
initiative is presented, based on the findings of a literature survey and the
recommendations of Rubenstein-Montano et al.
• Chapter 7: A report on the findings of three case studies on the current state
of knowledge management implementation initiatives in three financial
organisations.
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• Chapter 8: In conclusion a discussion of the main findings that have been
obtained in the study is given, by drawing together the results of the previous
chapters. Recommendations are made for further research.




















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CHAPTER 2



KNOWLEDGE AS A CONCEPT










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2.
KNOWLEDGE AS A CONCEPT


2.1 Introduction
“Knowledge has become the key economic resource and the dominant – and perhaps even the only
source of competitive advantage.” Peter Drucker

In today’s economy, knowledge is associated with people, money, leverage, learning
flexibility, power and competitive advantage. Knowledge is more relevant to
sustained business than capital, labour or land. Knowledge is more than justified true
belief and is essential for action, performance and adoption. Knowledge provides the
ability to respond to new, unknown and strange situations. However, it remains one of
the most neglected assets in organisations (Allee, 1997: 3-6).

A holistic view considers knowledge to be present in ideas, judgements, relationships,
and concepts. Unlike data and information, knowledge is never static but is
continually shaped inside peoples’ heads by experience, reasoning and the inflow of
new stimuli.

Knowledge is what people know, there is no knowledge without someone knowing it.
While knowledge can exist outside a person’s head, in the form of organisational
processes, products, services, facilities and systems, it still requires the intervention
and interaction of humans to render it of any value. To be of value, knowledge must
be constantly changing and self-generating, inseparable from the people who create,
develop, share and transmit it. Humans need to remember they, and not computer
systems hold the key to knowledge creation.

According to Nonaka (1994) the one sure source of lasting competitive advantage is
knowledge. Successful companies are those that consistently create new knowledge,
disseminate it widely throughout the organisation and embody it in new technologies
and products. These activities define the knowledge creating company, whose sole
business is continuous innovation.
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Individuals need to articulate new knowledge and to combine it with existing
knowledge, in order to share it with other groups or departments to create
organisational knowledge.

Organisational knowledge is created through a continuous dialogue between the tacit
and explicit knowledge of employees. Four patterns of interaction involving tacit and
explicit knowledge are identified (Nonaka, 1998a). There is also a range of
characteristics, levels and forms of knowledge that must be acknowledged during the
knowledge creation process (Depres & Chauvel, 2000).

While individuals develop new knowledge, organisations play a critical role in
articulating and expanding that knowledge. The ability to create and share knowledge
will be the number one factor for success in the 21
st
century. Drucker’s (1993) oft-
repeated statement that “knowledge has become the key economic resource and the
dominant and perhaps even the only source of competitive advantage” stresses the
urgency of taking knowledge seriously. As the world begins to fill with “knowledge
workers”, creating and sharing knowledge in new ways within knowledge-based
businesses, the global economy looks much different than it did just ten years ago.

This chapter addresses the fundamental concepts around which the research study is
built. The following specific issues will be discussed:

• The knowledge era.
• Data, information and knowledge
• Types of knowledge.
• Knowledge creation and knowledge conversion processes.
• Knowledge as an intangible asset.
• Organisation of knowledge.
• The use of knowledge in organisations.

The chapter will be concluded with an overview of the main conclusions that were
reached.
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2.2 The knowledge era

It is widely observed that the society, in which people live in today has gradually been
turned into a “global knowledge society” (Bell, 1990; Drucker, 1992a; Toffler, 1993).
The knowledge society is a concept that has often appeared in the literature
worldwide in recent years. The new era has also been referred to by various other
authors as: knowledge paradigm or to see the world from a knowledge perspective
(Sveiby, 1987); knowledge economy (Quinn, 1992); knowledge revolution or
knowledge capital era (Allee, 1997); knowledge era (Savage, 2000).

Whatever name the “knowledge era” goes by, it is rewriting the rules of business and
forcing a radical rethink of the corporate value and business models of past eras.
The origins of today’s focus on knowledge can be traced back to key influences over
the past centuries.

The key influences to the old economy in past eras or societies were the classical
factors of production: land, labour and capital. The operating model during that time
was one of scarcity. Enterprises wanted to have as much control over the classical
factors in the sense of managerial control (Savage, 2000).

During the nineteenth century, society moved from working primarily on farms and as
single artisans (labourers, mechanics and craftsmen) producing products one at a time,
to working in factories, producing hundreds of copies of a product at the same time.
The driver of the economy changed from land to capital. Factories produced wealth.
People who worked there carried out instructions for making wealth. Instructions
were passed down an organisational hierarchy and performance monitoring was
passed up (Toffler, 1990).

In the last forty years, organisations and workplaces changed again. Suddenly
information and technology were more important than physical capital. A company
that was smarter in getting the most use out of a physical device (e.g. microchips and
compact disks containing information) was more successful than those that did not
invest in technology.
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The “information economy” or “information society” had a profound effect on the
nature of the workplace. The information economy added information and technology
as the prime factors of production and the economic model changed from one of
scarcity to one of abundance or more than enough.

One of the effects of technological change has been the creation of a heightened
information awareness throughout society, but especially within the business
community. The realisation that information is an important, personal, organisational
and social resource that can be capitalised has market value and requires effective
organisation, has shifted attention to the content of information systems and the uses
and applications of information. Information began to be treated like a commodity,
and as one which does not deplete on consumption, can be easily replicated or mass-
produced and has the features of a social good (Savage, 2000).

Since 1990 knowledge has become an important factor in economic life. Knowledge
is now the prime ingredient of what organisations buy and sell. It is the raw material
with which employees work. Today knowledge is an indispensable asset of
organisations that cannot be set aside. Knowledge is seen as fundamental to future
business success. Enterprises have become more knowledge-conscious and this is a
trend that is expected to intensify over time (Skyrme, 1997: 4-7).

According to Skyrme (1997: 2) there is a growing number of examples that illustrate
the critical role and value of knowledge in organisations. Research shows that
companies that have developed a deep understanding of the role of knowledge in
business, treat it like an asset, nurture and exploit it and are gaining significant
business benefits as a result.

The key findings in research (Drucker, 1993, Nonaka 1998a, Wiig, 1993) include the
following:
• Knowledge is fundamental. It is a key factor for achieving competitiveness
virtually in every industry.
• Knowledge is flexible, has power and contributes to deliver higher customer
value from product development to customer service.
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• Knowledge is the basis for and the driver of the global knowledge economy.
• Market conditions and customer needs are changing at such a rate that
companies need to respond with creativity and innovation.
• Several new perspectives of the value of knowledge and capital have emerged
in business, such as knowledge assets, knowledge capital and knowledge value
added.

The above-mentioned fundamentals are changing the business landscape and the
focus on knowledge is sharpening. The ever-increasing importance of knowledge in
society calls for a shift in thinking concerning the value of knowledge. It also raises
questions about how organisations process knowledge and more important how
knowledge is created. Such a shift in general orientation will involve a
reconceptualisation of the knowledge hierarchy - information versus knowledge – and
of the organisational knowledge creation process.

“The only thing that gives an organisation a competitive edge – the only thing that is
sustainable – is what it knows, how it uses what it knows and how fast it can know
something new” (Prusak, 1996: 6).

2.3 Data, information and knowledge

In the business world employees need data, information and knowledge for problem
solving, decision-making processes and to create new knowledge. Access to these
concepts comes in a vast number of ways.

Data, information and knowledge are derived from reading, talking to colleagues,
databases, and from experiencing and noticing things in the environment. No one
method is necessarily more important than the others, but will depend on the context
of the scenario. What is important is how organisations create, access, share and use
data, information and knowledge. The extent to which the organisation can be said to
be efficient is the extent to which it applies available data, information and
knowledge. The final step would be to move from knowledge to wisdom. Wisdom
can be thought of knowledge that has been applied.
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The task of defining these concepts, especially knowledge, has received attention for
many years. Lately, the question of the precise nature of data, information and
knowledge has been raised anew, not only in information science but also in
organisational environments. Knowledge is also an interdisciplinary field and
incorporates many disciplines such as philosophy, economics, management,
information technology, human resources and artificial intelligence, to name a few
(Nonaka, 1994: 12-13).

The wide variety of perspectives and definitions, which are available illustrate that
data, information and knowledge are used quite differently, depending on context and
intention of use. A basic problem in connection with these concepts is that they can
also be used interchangeably (Wilson, 1996: 2-4). Information and knowledge can be
seen as closely related in complementary stages along the same road. As such they
perform essential roles in the problem-solving and decision-making processes.

Wilson (1996:1-9) presents a useful explanation of the relationship between
information and knowledge with the “processing hierarchy” in Figure 2.1. He shows
that by selecting data information can be produced; by selecting and combining
information, knowledge can be generated; from this decisions can be made and action
taken.

Action

Decision

Knowledge

Information

Data

Figure 2.1: The processing hierarchy: data, information and knowledge in a
hierarchy based on decision-making and problem solving (Wilson, 1996: 4)


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According to Debons (1988: 5) data, information, knowledge and wisdom can be
viewed as part of a continuum, one leading into another, each the result of actions on
the preceding, with no clear boundaries between them. The continuum is illustrated in
Figure 2.2.
Event→Symbols→Rules→Formulations

Wisdom
Knowledge
Information Cognitively driven segment
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
Data Data-driven segment


Figure 2.2: The knowledge continuum (Debons, 1988: 5)

The event is an occurrence, some condition or change in the state of the world. This
state or condition has to be represented if humans have to deal with it. Invented
symbols - numbers, letters, glyphs or pictures - become representations of the event.
Rules are used to organise such representations and to generate a datum (singular) or
data (plural). Data are perceived when one or more senses are stimulated. When a
person is exposed to these stimuli, he/she becomes aware (a state of consciousness) of
data about the event.

At this point, information has been acquired. He/she is now informed. Being
informed means that he/she is aware of some occurrence, but nothing else. Humans
can respond to this information in a number of ways: they can store it in their minds
(called memory) or they can record or enter in a computer file. This physical or
cognitive representation of data is called information.

When meaning or understanding is applied to awareness, higher cognitive processes
are involved. When such processes are applied, a person senses that he/she

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understands and can apply what is understood to those things that require resolution.
This understanding enables people to analyse situations and to put things into their
proper perspective. Thus when he/she goes beyond awareness (by own intellectual
actions), knowledge has been obtained. Knowledge can be given physical
representation by packaging it in books, records or databases. The ultimate step in the
knowledge continuum is wisdom, which always involves the inclusion of values in
judgement (Debons, 1988: 6-10).


The sequence data → information → knowledge→ wisdom sequence represents an
emergent continuum. Although data is a discrete entity, the progression to
information, to knowledge and finally to wisdom does not occur in discrete stages of
development. One progresses along the continuum as one’s understanding develops.
Each transformation (e.g. symbols to data, data to information ) represents a step
upward in human cognitive functioning (Debons, 1988: 9).


According to Harris (1996: 1): “… the lowest level of known facts is data. Data has
no intrinsic meaning. It must be sorted, grouped, analysed and interpreted. When data
is processed in this manner, it becomes information. Information has a substance and
a purpose. However, information does not have meaning. When information is
combined with context experience, it becomes knowledge”.

Knowledge is the combination of information, context and experience. Context is an
individual’s framework for viewing life. This includes influences like values, religion,
cultural heritage and gender. Experience is previously acquired knowledge. When
knowledge is transferred from one person to another, the knowledge is drawn into
the receiver’s context and experience. The knowledge is interpreted according to the
receiver’s context and experience (Harris, 1996: 4).

Turban and Frenzel (1992: 10-12) approach data, information and knowledge from a
computer science and specifically an artificial intelligence perspective:

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• Data refers to numeric or alphanumeric strings that by themselves do not have
meaning. These can be facts or figures to be processed.
• Information is data organised so that it is meaningful to the person receiving it.